Detailed Images May Show Disorder Before Symptoms Appear

NEW YORK (CBS 2) — There is promising news for families living with autistic children.

Researchers at the University of Utah say they have found a better way to detect autism, CBS 2’s Dr. Holly Phillips reports.

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Six-year-old Mira Recalde is very talkative and talented and she has come a long way. Three years ago her parents learned she was autistic.

“She didn’t crawl on time. She didn’t walk on time and then she just didn’t talk,” mother Brittany Recalde said.

After years of therapy Mira is doing very well, but her mother feels precious time was lost.

“We’re thrilled with the outcome she’s had so far, but we know it could have been better if we were able to treat her earlier,” Brittany said.

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Researchers at Utah cannot turn back the clock for Mira, but they say in the future high-tech MRIs can help them diagnose autism in young children, even babies before the symptoms even appear.

“It’s very likely that within the next couple of years that all of this is going to happen,” psychiatrist Dr. Janet Lainhart said.

Lainhart, the lead researcher on the project, said more work needs to be done in the lab, but so far these high-tech images have helped experts compare the brains of autistic people with those who are not autistic.

Autism experts say these images can look deep into the brain to pinpoint the problem and eventually the treatment.

Because there are so many different forms of autism, a specific diagnosis and treatment is critical.

“It’s very exciting that we’ll be able to diagnose earlier and understand more what each issue is with every child,” Brittany said.

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More research on the effectiveness of MRI screening for autism is underway. But until then the condition can still be diagnosed early, based on certain behaviors and developmental milestones — the sooner the better, so talk to your pediatrician if you have any concerns.